Good advice from three jazz masters on finding one’s musical voice

By Michael Lake | September 20, 2020 |

One of my favorite things to ask great players is where players can discover their musical voice. One that reflects who they are within their technical abilities. This is a very abstract and philosophical topic, but one at the heart of playing jazz. Jazz improvisation is a deeply personal art. As you play, you are…

Steve Swallow and Dave Liebman on finding one’s musical personality

By Michael Lake | September 15, 2020 |

I had the thrill of interviewing bassist Steve Swallow last week for the next Jazz Master Summit. As I expected, Steve was a wealth of information about everything from bass pickups to zen. Later in the conversation, I asked Steve a question that I frequently ask myself and others. In fact, Dave Liebman and I…

Remembering Bill Evans on September 15

By Michael Lake | September 15, 2020 |

Richie Beirach called me today and after our friendly banter, told me that in Germany it was September 15th. “Do you know that 40 years ago today, Bill Evans passed?” “No”, I said with a small amount of shame. “Well, you should write something about it in your blog”, he told me. We discussed it…

Is jazz improvisation hard?

By Michael Lake | September 10, 2020 |

I saw this question online recently. The number of results for this question on Google is 6.1 million so it’s worth answering. Is jazz improvisation hard?¬† YES. There are two forms of jazz soloing. One form is comprised of stringing together scales, arpeggios, memorized licks, and patterns in order to skillfully weave notes over the…

How to learn jazz improvisation

By Michael Lake | September 9, 2020 |

Jazz improvisation is similar to many skills that benefit from starting off with good habits and the right foundation. Here are three activities you can do to begin improvising with greater skill and more confidence. 1. Train your ear The foundational skill of a jazz player is to play his or her instrument with the…

The four stages of learning applied to jazz improvisation

By Michael Lake | September 6, 2020 |

Explanations of behaviors abound with quadrants. My favorite, of which many others are based on is the 1. Expressive, 2. Amiable, 3. Analytical, 4. Driver quadrant. We all have dominant parts of our personality that fall into these quadrants, usually more than one. The quadrant I want to explore here is the one that describes…

Dave Brubeck’s true genius

By Michael Lake | September 6, 2020 |

Richie Beirach sent me a Youtube recording of him, George Mraz, and Al Foster playing Dave Brubeck’s In Your Own Sweet Way. I wrote back asking Richie about Brubeck. In truth, I haven’t listened to him much. Watch the video of Richie’s trio playing In Your Own Sweet Way Richie later wrote me this sweet…

Ron Carter on how he’s practicing right now

By Michael Lake | September 3, 2020 |

I interviewed Ron Carter yesterday for the next Jazz Master Summit. He was gracious and full of insight. We spoke on a variety of topics, not the least of which was that second Miles quintet and how they did what they did on stage as well as their preparation for recordings. Early on, Ron told…

One way you will stop yourself from improvising well or at all

By Michael Lake | September 2, 2020 |

Researchers have identified two kinds of mindset. One, they call “Fixed” and the other, they call”Growth”. As you can imagine, they are polar opposites and have the power to determine the fate of your life. Now, if that is too dramatic for you, let’s say that those two mindsets affect how you improvise jazz. Better?…

The Creative Genius of Billy Strayhorn free eBook by Richie Beirach

By Michael Lake | September 1, 2020 |

This is a short eBook highlighting the life and music of Billy Strayhorn. These are the thoughts of Richie Beirach as someone¬† admittedly influenced by Billy and considers him to be one of the iconic composers in jazz. This piece came about because of the composition competition during the Summer 2020 Jazz Master Summit. Our…